This is the end of the fall season for the Lawrence University women’s tennis team, but it’s a beginning for the Vikings as well.

Lawrence heads into this weekend’s Midwest Conference Championships at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison looking for a strong finish to the fall season and build some momentum for the spring campaign.

“We don’t have any seniors playing so it’s good experience for everyone,” Lawrence coach Kevin Girard said. “It’s matches to improve and to look forward to the spring season.”

The Vikings failed to qualify for the four-team MWC Tournament for the first time in three seasons, but Lawrence is still shooting for the best finish it can muster.

“We just want to finish as high as we can, which is fifth,” said Girard, pointing out the four teams in the MWC Tournament on Friday are guaranteed the top four spots.

“Fifth is what we’re going for, but we can get more points than (one of the tournament teams), that’s one of our goals as well.”

Doubles competition is set for Saturday, and the championships finish with singles on Sunday.

“Honestly, if everyone plays as well as they can, they can do a ton of damage in their draws. One through six, we all have a shot,” Girard said.

Sophomore Christina Schaupp, the defending conference champion at No. 4 singles, is playing No. 1 for the Vikings this season and enters the weekend with a 5-9 overall record. Next in the lineup is junior Gayatri Malhotra, who is 10-2 overall and 4-2 since moving up to No. 2 singles last month.

“Gayatri’s tough,” Girard said. “She’s not a fun one to play against, that’s for sure. She doesn’t blow anyone out, but she’s hard to beat. When she gets into a groove, she hits as hard as anyone in the conference. If she gets into that groove against you, you’re in trouble.”

The Vikings round out the singles lineup with sophomore Hannah Geoffrey (9-4), freshman Ali Heiring (8-5), junior Polly Dalton (8-4) and sophomore Melissa Heeren (3-5).

The Vikings team Geoffrey and Heiring at No. 1 doubles, Malhotra and Dalton at No. 2 and Schaupp and sophomore Tess Vogel at No. 3. Geoffrey and Heiring are 8-3 overall and 3-2 since moving to the No. 1 spot.

“If Hannah and Ali are on, they can beat anybody,” Girard said. “Gayatri and Polly are really tough, and Tess and Christina are also playing well.”

Malhotra and Dalton are 8-4 and 5-3 since moving up to No. 2. That’s not bad, especially considering Malhotra had not played very little doubles in college until this season.

“Gayatri is a natural singles player, but this year she has really embraced doubles,” Girard said. “She loves the baseline. She loves her groundstrokes, but she is really working on her footwork and her hands.”

Given the changes in the doubles lineup, Malhotra and Dalton could prove to be a tough out for anyone in the conference.

“Seeding is going to be interesting. They are kind of the wild cards,” Girard said. “You don’t want to draw them in the first round, that’s for sure.”

Clean sweep

For the first time in the brief three-year history of the Gene Davis Invitational, Lawrence won both the men’s and women’s races last Saturday at Reid Golf Course. Junior Curran Carlile won the men’s race for the second time in three seasons, and freshman Clare Bruning took the top spot in the women’s race for her first collegiate title. Lawrence also took the men’s team title.

Nine is fine

The Lawrence women’s tennis team defeated Ripon College 9-0 last Friday, and that marks the second consecutive season Lawrence has shut out the rival Red Hawks. The Vikings now have a record nine consecutive wins over Ripon.

Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.